THE universe is expanding at a rate comparable to a rollercoaster, according to scientists who have mapped the galaxies for the first time as they were 11 billion years ago.
Astronomers at the University of Portsmouth have been involved in a project examining how the universe has evolved since the big bang occurred 13.75 billion years ago.
The study has now mapped the universe as it was in its youth, three billion years after it was formed.
Dr Mat Pieri, Marie Curie research fellow at the university and co-author of the study, said the universe’s growth when it was young was slowed by the effects of gravity but in the past five billion years it has begun to rapidly expand because of a mysterious force, which scientists call dark energy.
Dr Pieri likened this slow rise then rapid expansion to a rollercoaster.
He said: ‘If we think of the universe as a rollercoaster, then today we are rushing downhill, gaining speed as we go.
‘Our new measurement tells us about the time when the universe was climbing the hill, still being slowed by gravity. It looks like the rollercoaster crested the hill just about seven billion years ago, and we’re still going.’